Now is the time to act

Sen. Brian Schatz told The Maui News in an interview published Tuesday that he is committed to the principles of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, more commonly known as the Akaka Bill.

Named after former Sen. Daniel Akaka, the purpose of the bill is to set up an official political recognition and relationship between the government of the United States and Native Hawaiians.

In effect, it seeks to do no more for Native Hawaiians than what has already been done for indigenous peoples of the lower 48 states and Alaskans. But it has been stalled for years.

Schatz told the paper:

“We will be talking about treating Native Hawaiians fairly with respect to the way the federal government treats Native Americans generally. Native Hawaiians are the only native group that doesn’t have a government-to-government relationship acknowledged. And I think it’s a matter of basic fairness that the federal government treat Hawaiians on an equal footing with Alaska natives and American Indians.

“I believe that separate is not equal and that Native Hawaiians need to be treated fairly,” he said.

We agree.

On Tuesday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser argued in an editorial that what has so far been impossible to establish legislatively may be able to be done administratively using procedures set up by the 1994 Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act. Certainly, Native Hawaiians are Native Americans and need to be treated as such.

We would join Schatz and the Star-Advertiser in urging the administration to act promptly on finding an executive solution while we have a president who is knowledgeable – and sympathetic – about the situation.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.